Thanks to the support of generous backers, dedicated volunteers, committed members, and local enterprises, Suffolk Wildlife Trust has reached its ambitious goal of securing £1 million for ‘Martlesham Wilds’. The aim to create a pristine 300-acre nature reserve nestled along the picturesque River Deben, has now become a reality.
Suffolk Wildlife Trust launched the fundraiser in October 2022. The remarkable project drew participation from over 2,300 individuals, community groups, and local organisations, all engaged in various fundraising activities. They ranged from marathons and musical challenges to business collaborations and guided nature walks. Notably, the Suffolk Building Society emerged as one of the most fervent business supporters, united in their commitment to this special haven for wildlife.
Where nature and history converge
Martlesham Wilds, situated within the Suffolk Coast and Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and adjacent to the historic burial site of Anglo-Saxon Royalty at Sutton Hoo, is a landscape steeped in both natural beauty and rich history. This presents a unique opportunity to establish a new nature reserve that will not only protect this pristine habitat but also provide ample room for nature to thrive, ultimately restoring the missing abundance of wildlife in our countryside.
From farmland to wildscape: a transformative journey
Having served as an organic farm for many years, this land is already a sanctuary for a vibrant array of plants, animals, and invertebrates. Under the stewardship of the custodians, the patchwork of hedge-lined fields gently descending to the river will gradually transform into a mosaic of natural habitats, meticulously managed through grazing, promising a thrilling transformation to behold.
As hawthorn, blackthorn, gorse, and wild rose thickets take root in the arid sandy soils, they will become vital habitats for burgeoning flocks of linnets and yellowhammers. Dartford warblers will soon make their home here, and the hope lingers for the eventual return of turtle doves and nightingales. Small mammals will thrive amid the dense undergrowth, while insects will abound. Grass snakes, slow worms, and common lizards will expand into these newly created habitats, and barn owls will become a regular sight at dusk. This ‘rewilded’ land will seamlessly integrate into a connected landscape of ancient woodlands, scrublands, grasslands, and saltings, all interconnected by the majestic River Deben.
The road to ‘rewilding’
With the conclusion of the agricultural tenancy in October 2023, Suffolk Wildlife Trust will allow the ‘wilding’ process will begin. Initially, this involves allowing cultivated land to lie fallow for several years, permitting natural vegetation to take root. During this period, tree and shrub seedlings will proliferate across much of the land, while hedges will thicken and extend into the fields. Dormant seeds in the soil will spring to life, giving rise to wildflowers, grasses, and plants such as gorse and broom. Subsequently, extensive grazing will be introduced, utilising cattle or ponies, possibly both, with the implementation of boundary fencing allowing livestock to roam freely across the entire landscape. These animals will play a pivotal role in nurturing and sustaining the diverse mosaic of grass, scrub, and woodland habitats crucial for supporting a wide array of wildlife.
Suffolk Wildlife Trust Chief Executive Chris Luxton expressed her optimism to the BBC. “By securing this small piece of the Deben landscape, the trust takes a significant step forward in aiding Suffolk’s nature recovery. Gratitude goes out to everyone who contributed to making this achievement possible.”
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